My Nemesis, the White Backdrop

Chicago Photographer | Sharon Gaietto Photography

Batman had the Joker, Superman had Lex Luthor, for me it was the white backdrop. Not that I’m claiming to be a Superhero, but we all have our adversaries. We all have to deal with something or someone in our lives, whether it be personal or work related, that causes that vein in our head to protrude a little further. Ever since I started my professional photography business in 2009, I have struggled with the white backdrop.

My first attempts with a white backdrop started in April 2009. My son was just turning one and it was Easter time. I had purchased a white backdrop, that was basically a sheet. I had not made the jump into studio lighting, so I used available window light. As you can see, I spent quite a bit of time smoothing out my background in post production. It would have taken less time to have just ironed the sheet, I mean the backdrop.

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The following year (2010), I was still using the sheet. However, I was now using a lighting kit that consisted of continuous lights and a very unpleasant yellowish hue. One would have just corrected the problem by using a custom white balance. Not me, I thought I could make the adjustments in post production. As you can see, I went with a lovely shade of magenta instead. It’s amazing to think the time I spent editing this picture. What’s even more amazing, I thought it was a good photo.

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In 2011, I graduated from the white sheet and invested in a white vinyl backdrop. I continued to use the lighting kit, but learned how to balance the color. My biggest issue now, was lighting the entire backdrop. I didn’t have enough lights, so the light would fall off. It left me with shades of gray on one side of the photo. So, my quick fix was to use the stamp tool in Photoshop and fill in a completely white background. The only problem, or should I say the only two problems were, my quick fix was not so quick and my subjects appeared to be floating in the photo.

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In 2012, I packed the lighting kit away and purchased two speedlites (Canon 580EX ll). I turned in my umbrellas for softboxes. I was happier with the lighting, but still struggled with lighting the backdrop. The light I would use to light the backdrop would spill onto my subject. Not only was it creating hot spots, but I was still dealing with one side of the backdrop being bright, while the other side was in the dark. Once again, I was left making corrections in Photoshop.

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In 2013, I made one of the best investments for my business. I purchased a three light Profoto (D1) lighting kit. From the first moment I used these lights, I was in love. I now had enough lights to light my backdrop and light my subject(s). I had finally won! I was going to produce great images on a white backdrop with limited editing. Well, I was going to have to postpone my celebrating. My three light kit only had two working lights. You would think I would have taken care of this problem in a timely manner. Oh no, I went another year before I got the light fixed. I know, you don’t have to tell me, I’m an IDIOT! On the bright side (no pun intended), I was getting a lot better at editing my images. My subjects were not floating and I didn’t have any hot spots, well they weren’t exactly hot, just very warm.

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Now, in 2014, I have finally wised up and I no longer consider the white backdrop my enemy. I have fixed my third light and using a set-up that I really like. I am using small umbrellas (actually meant for my speedlites) on the two lights that face the backdrop and a large 7 foot parabolic umbrella to light the subject(s). I also purchased a 4×8 piece of whiteboard from Home Depot, to use for my flooring. For only $12.65, this has got to be one of my cheapest purchases with the best results. The long, tiring battle has finally come to an end.

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It only took me five years, but I have finally found a peaceful relationship with the white backdrop. The one year old with the bunny years and the horrible backdrop is now getting ready to celebrate his sixth birthday. It has been a rough road, but I would like to say it has all been worth it. But, I’ll let you be the judge.

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Can I just say, the only editing I had to do with this image was to remove the frosting off his mouth, from the donut he just ate.

Here are a few shots from my latest session using the new set-up.

WhiteBackdrop Blog

4 thoughts on “My Nemesis, the White Backdrop

  1. AnnMarie March 13, 2014 / 2:42 pm

    Yeah! You did it! Glad to see you have conquered your nemesis 🙂

  2. sharongaiettophotography March 13, 2014 / 3:42 pm

    Thanks AnnMarie! It took a little time, but at least I don’t cringe when a client requests a white backdrop.

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